My name is Trina. Above all things, I am a horror fan. And while the year 2020 feels like a well-crafted movie or show akin to the Purge, actually living it out isn’t exactly entertaining. The country has been ravaged by COVID-19, morale is in shambles, and the general lack of faith in each other has never been more prevalent. And yet…I wasn’t about to let that stop my holiday spirit. You see, I’m not only a fan of the horror genre, but I absolutely love Halloween. Say what you will, but the fun that comes with dressing up as whatever or whoever you want, coupled with candy (as a child) or alcohol (as an adult) has a way of bringing out the good times.
Naturally, after being stuck inside for months, I wanted the true Halloween experience. I wanted to be really spooked this year, because the availability of other Halloween-based scare factors in this town is minimal, if not non-existent. As an avid horror fan, I often found myself on YouTube channels where the strange and unusual were being discussed. I found myself particularly drawn to YouTube during this time, as many of the Halloween movies on major channels are often overdone and replayed, yet these YouTubers always seemed to find, articulate, and post new content that I’d never heard of before. Reddit stories, Horror-based games, personal accounts–you name it, I ate it up. Especially the haunted “games” like the Three Kings Ritual, or the one where you fill a doll with rice–I wish I could remember the details.
One type of video I found myself continuously stumbling upon, and eventually pressing on, was the type discussing the accounts of individuals who had bought haunted dolls off of eBay, Amazon, Mercari and the like. At first, these accounts sounded so fake, and while I appreciated a good, cheesy scare–these just seemed like clout chasing to me. As someone who was a social media manager for years, this algorithm was not new to me, and it made sense that the most popular (bit also the corniest and most unrealistic) videos were being pushed up higher for me to watch. So, I did what I always do when I want to find someone semi-authentic–I went on a YouTube deep dive.
It didn’t take long for me to stumble upon a video that looked *just* low-fi enough to gain my attention, but creepy enough to hold it. The video, titled “Margaret,” started in a room with wood-wall paneling in the background–like something you’d see out of a basement in the 1970’s. Then, a hand attached to a very unsettling porcelain doll came into the screen, with the hand using it’s motions to animate the doll, making it talk. “Heya, dolls.” I laughed at my screen–this was almost too much. Were they attempting some sort of tight-lipped, Liza Minelli voice? “Appreciate the cool cats watching out there. You’re the berries, the bee’s knees.”
Okay, this was cornier than anything I could’ve ever imagined. And yet, I couldn’t tear my eyes away from the screen. The owner of this doll was truly so dedicated to this 1920’s, Vaudeville-type of character that I had to see it all the way through. The only remotely creepy thing about the video was the white-noise in the background, a sound which seemed to increase throughout the entirety of the video
“My name is Margie. You’re a choice bit ‘a Calico, ain’t ya? A real tomato.”
I giggled again, sipping on my energy drink as I contemplated how interesting it was for content creators to make these types of videos, where the intent is to make the watcher feel as though the words are directed specifically at them. The giggle, however, caused a rough pain in my chest, and my lungs heaved forward as I coughed roughly. Pressing pause on the video, I continued to gag and heave on my own breath…how many days had it been since I’d taken the COVID-19 test? Two? I still had a few more days left to get my results back, but the pit in my stomach and the severity of the cough caused me more concern than I’d cared to admit. It had started with a small cough at first–I’d written it off as allergies. However, when the fever had hit, I made sure to get tested–but I was four days in and gradually feeling more and more miserable. I’d already been secluded prior to feeling ill, but now I was truly secluded–I couldn’t even pop my head out to say “hello” to the Uber Eats driver. Everyone was back to work, so it wasn’t as if they weren’t worried about me–they were just hustling to ensure they kept their employment.
Before I could allow myself to spiral into another panic attack, similar to the ones I’d had earlier this week regarding my impending infection–I clicked play on the video again, waiting to see what else this whacky creator would come up with. “Nah, you’re not a cancelled stamp at all, far as I see.” Calico? Cancelled stamp? What the hell were these descriptions? Upon doing a quick google search, I found that they were 1920’s slang terms–how authentic. “You don’t deserve to be all cooped up, lonely and waiting. I know how that feels.”
Okay–that struck a chord with me. A little creepy, but it easily could’ve been aimed at any person who was hunched over a computer, alone in their basement, watching whatever the hell this was. “Not a lollygagger or a dewdropper. You sure don’t take any wooden nickels.”
From what I gathered, taking wooden nickels meant taking someone’s shit. Okay, the doll wasn’t too far off there. What type of bizarre, self-help, motivational video was this? Was I so lonely that I’d stooped to the level of letting a scary doll on a video make me feel better about myself? How much had this isolation done a number on me? Peering over to the energy drink I had sitting on my computer table, I decided to switch to something a little harder–besides, alcohol killed germs, right? Maybe it would rid my body of the impending virus pulsing through it, I thought, dryly. Opening the mini-fridge next to me, I dove in for a small shot–one of those tiny ones you’d see in a bin on the way out of a liquor store. Or a mini-fridge in a hotel room. Left over from my friend’s birthday, prior to the pandemic, I decided now was a better time than ever. It was only then that I realized—I hadn’t pressed pause on the video, yet the doll was still staring at me. Silent. Hm, okay–now *this* was the type of creepy I was talking about. A bunch of catchy one liners and then unsettling silence. I actually felt scared for a moment, there. I wondered when Ms. Margie would begin to talk again, but in the meantime, I tipped my head back to indulge, when out of nowhere–
“Ah-ah–the gigglewater isn’t gonna help you feel any less alone.”
Pausing, before I could even taste a drop of the vile liquid in my hand that would bring me comfort but little in terms of actual taste–I froze, my eyes moving to the screen. Margie was staring at me, the arm that was holding her very still as the doll looked into the screen. Gigglewater. Now that was a 1920’s term I did not need to research. I knew it meant alcohol, because I’d heard it once at a Speakeasy that my friends had taken me to. And if it meant what I thought it meant, the doll on the screen was suddenly becoming a bit too particular for my liking. My finger dove to the mouse, and I hovered over the “x” on my screen to get off of the page, but the doll suddenly shifted on screen, it’s head tilting up towards where the arrow of my mouse was pointed. This time the voice came out sharp, demanding. “Don’t you dare give me the icy mitt, girlie.”
This time I dropped the shot, which had still been in my hand, the contents of it pouring out onto the rug beneath me as I stared, wide-eyed and slack-jawed at the screen in front of me. It was at that exact moment that a link popped up, directly in the middle of the YouTube video. The doll was still staring upwards towards the mouse, silent. If I hadn’t known any better from the first time, I would’ve thought that the video was paused.
My eyes drifted down to subscribers, to which they had none. When I went to look at how many times it had been viewed, my blood ran cold. The total of views? One. Which meant I was the first and last person to view this. As I clicked on the link, it took me to an eBay page, with a picture of the doll neatly placed in a box as the image used by the seller. The seller’s name? Margery, no last name. Now, this was beginning to get creepier than I anticipated. The dull sound of the doll’s voice, from the other tab, seemed to rise over the computer screen. After debating for a long moment, I clicked back to the video, where the doll was once again facing me.
“Let’s make some whoopee, what do you say?”
My computer made an angry noise as I yanked the chord from it, not even bothering to shut the page. I was panting by now, my body shaking with a fear I hadn’t known existed. I waited—waited for her face to pop up on the screen again, but nothing happened. After ten minutes of debating whether or not to leave my seat, I finally did–and turned on every godforsaken light in my home. I ended up holding myself in my room, with every single light on, watching cartoons to keep my mind off of what had happened earlier. And as I watched, I felt my fever spike again. Perhaps I’d imagined it all in my delirious state?
The last thing I remembered before drifting off was the idea that in my fevered state, I had hallucinated the whole event, and I was content to let that be the end of it. When I woke the next morning with a high temperature, it only further solidified my (honestly very shaky) belief that what I had witnessed was merely my mind warping something that was meant to be unsettling. How odd was it that a channel with no subscribers had no views? Not very. And yet…I couldn’t bring myself to turn on the computer again. I coughed again, my chest rattling violently, and nodded to myself, fully trying to be convinced of the fever running the show right now.
Roughly an hour after waking, and showering, I heard a knock at my door. Odd, considering I hadn’t ordered any food and all of my friends and family knew that I was very sick, and quarantining for at least two weeks. Looking through the peephole, I saw no one. Cracking the door open an inch, I peered around, only for my eyes to land on a box. A get-well gift basket, perhaps? I’d never received one before, how thoughtful! Pulling the box in, I didn’t even think to look at the card on top, ripping through the gift tissue to get to the bottom of its contents.
If I wasn’t feeling sick before, I certainly was now. Swallowing hard, my eyes met with the very same blue doll eyes from last night–Margie’s eyes. The doll was in front of me, in person, in a box that had somehow found its way to my house. Staggering back, I found myself backing up into the storage closet’s door, eyes wide with fright. Yet, Margie said nothing. Did nothing. After staring for a solid five minutes, I eventually inched myself towards the box again, picking up the card.
“Let’s Make Some Whoopee.”
Now, I was angry. Who the hell was messing with me, and while I was so sick? Was this some kind of dark web prank, where they’d gathered my IP address and sent this to me the next day? Picking up Margie, I held her up—but there was nothing unordinary about her. Just a porcelain doll. I continued to wait for her to talk, to threaten me. I even shook the doll a few times, but nothing came of it. Marching back down to my computer, I plugged it in and logged onto my gmail account, attempting to trace my steps back to the video. I followed the same path, only to find…absolutely nothing. Not a shred of evidence, other than the doll sitting in my foyer, that this was real. However, upon checking my email, I saw a notification. It was eBay, thanking me for my order as well as the expedited shipping charge tacked onto it. I rubbed my eyes, clicking on the site and looking through the details. My card information had been entered, and an order had indeed been placed–but how?
My eyes drifted to the bottom of the screen. October 31st, the morning of Halloween. Was this some sort of prank? Had one of my friends, or family members, who had access to my eBay account done this? But how would they have known about the video? I wanted to write it off as a prank, but the very old, nearly 100-year old doll sitting in my living room begged to differ. And speaking of which–my head slowly turned towards the door that led up stairs, and I gently began to climb the steps. By the time I’d reached the top, I’d convinced myself that it was all a prank, or that some sort of asshole on the dark web was taking advantage of my search history–a chilling thought but not as chilling as the other option presented to me. As I turned the corner into the living room, I froze, feeling my heart begin to palpitate all over again.
The box was empty.
“Okay, who the hell are you?! Who is doing this?!”
I shouted into the empty void that was my living room. All the excitement from the shouting caused my chest to feel quite gravelly, and I began to cough violently, the dryness shaking up my lungs and constitution and simultaneously giving me a massive migraine. I coughed for what seemed like five minutes, the pressure on my chest making it feel as though my lungs were going to cave in. This was bad–really bad. How had it gotten so much worse in only a day or so? Then again, they had said that the severity of the virus depended on each individual’s health–and I just so happened to have asthma. I didn’t know which was more terrifying–the prospect that there was a chance of truly suffocating if I didn’t receive medical care, or the idea that someone on the dark web was stalking me, had my IP address, and had my physical address.
Honestly, neither of those options were as terrifying as the nagging thought of a haunted porcelain doll walking around my house.
I couldn’t leave–I had nowhere to go, and it wasn’t as if a hospital would take me or put me on a ventilator if I didn’t have a positive test. I was still a day or so away from my results, but as the morning stretched into afternoon and I continued to monitor my symptoms, I had a very unfortunate inkling as to what the result may be.
I’d almost forgotten about the doll until I walked through my foyer and was once again face to face with an empty box. All of my doors were locked, and had been, since I’d opened the door a sliver to bring in the box that had once held Margie. Now, I was beginning to get pissed. Have you ever had so many things shoved onto you at once, that the severity of everything seems to lessen while you deal with only one of the large, gaping issues before you? Similar to how the U.S. government dropped the bomb regarding how UFO’s were real–but everyone was so preoccupied with the COVID and riot news, we just let it slip? But if it were any other time, we would’ve collectively freaked out? While the idea of someone being in my house was unsettling, and the idea of a doll walking on it’s own was scary, none of that seemed to hold a candle to the increasing panic of my own mortality, as I hacked and gagged my way through the house with my flashlight on my phone, looking for the doll, or the person who was pranking me. At this point, being around me was more dangerous to them. I was a walking biochemical weapon, after all.
At some point during my search, my fever made me delirious–and I collapsed onto my bed, drenched in sweat, mumbling incoherent nonsense as my body forced me to sleep, Huluween movies blaring in the background. When I woke, it was dark. I had no idea what time it was–only that it was still Halloween, based on what was still on my screen. There hadn’t been any rings to my doorbell, but given the current climate with the virus, it wasn’t as if many people were letting their kids out to Trick or Treat, anyway. And as I sat up in the dim lighting of my room, I was struck with the odd feeling that I wasn’t alone–a feeling which only applied when I realized that the eucalyptus candle across the room was lit. Even in a feverish state, I would’ve never lit it at night, knowing that I risked falling asleep. My mother was one of those people who always assumed that any little object would burn the house down–and I had adopted some of that attitude. Suddenly, a voice from the left hand corner of my room emerged, and through the exhaustion and sickness, fear seeped through. A glass doll. Blonde hair. Blue eyes. And a vaudeville accent that seemed to come directly from the source itself.
“Well, aren’t you a bluenose?”
I gawked at the doll, sitting in the chair opposite of the candle. She was *talking* to me?! Was this real, or was I in some sort of feverish dream? “Who are you?” I croaked, trying to hold in the cough that threatened to seep out of my chest.
“What, are you deaf? We went through this before girlie, I’m Margie.”
“W-What are you?”
A better question, though Margie didn’t seem to like this one. The doll slowly began to turn in it’s seat, shifting her head towards me, the smile on her face a little too wide for my liking. I backed up into my headboard, eyes wide as I clutched at my knees. “Why, I’m a lady, a’course.”
“But…aren’t you just a doll?”
A stupid question to ask the obviously talking, animated object in my room that had managed to walk and light a candle on it’s own. Margie’s smile seemed to vanish from her face, and this time her voice came out in a sarcastic hiss–“And you’re just a *peach*, honey. The real bee’s knees. Now, I have a proposition for ya.”
Did I really have a choice? Blinking, I merely watched the door before it moved from a sitting to standing position in the chair, holding itself up. To say I was nearly pissing myself was an understatement–but something about the way Margie spoke seemed to temper my fear of her.
“You like scary things, don’t ya? Let’s play a game. A Halloween game. It’s called Ceperunt Animam.”
“I don’t want to pla–”
Now the doll seemed to take on a sinister vibration, and the room seemed to shift. Everything around me became thicker–the air, the buzzing white noise that seemed to appear out of nowhere. And much like the sound, it appeared that while I had been looking around, searching for the source–Margie had moved. And was now standing tall at the foot of my bed. I jolted back, curling into my headboard. Her voice was much deeper, much sharper now, angrily retorting at me.
“Listen girlie, I’ve been trapped inside of this vessel for years and if I don’t get out, I’ll–”
At the site of me curled up against my headboard, frozen with fear, Margie must’ve known that I wouldn’t play ball–and so, she tempered her approach, her voice dropping to a more feminine tone as the air seemed to enter the room again.
“You would be helping me. You’d be a real egg, a ral cad, you know? My soul will be freed, and you can live your life as you were before. But it needs to happen tonight, you see? All Hallow’s Eve. Know your onions, girlie, and I’ll be out of your hair before you’re on the trolley.”
So she was a ghost? Trapped in a doll? And she wanted to be freed? This was a terrifying way to go about it all, but something in me pitied her. I didn’t feel like she was some sort of demonic entity, per se, but rather like a poltergeist–angry and searching for answers and refusing to move on. “You’re dead?” I asked, trying to level with the entity. Slowly, the doll’s head nodded–forward and backwards–and I felt another chill run up my spine at how unnatural it looked. “How did you die?”
There was a pause, the light flickering over the doll’s face before I received an answer,
“Spanish Influenza. While it was mostly eradicated early on, some of us suffered for years after, and eventually succumbed to it, even well into the decade. But I wasn’t ready to leave, and so–I latched onto the first thing I could find. My daughter’s doll.”
“Okay, so how do we play the game?”
“That’s the spirit, missy! The whole kitten caboodle. Now listen here, what you’re going to do is place us both in front of a mirror. Then you say the magic words and presto. I go through the mirror to the other side and you’re left with a doll that can’t walk or talk.”
It sounded too suspect to me, and getting further involved with this entity seemed unsettling and off-putting to me. Everything inside of my body screamed to run, to wrap the doll back up in the box and ship it back to where it had come from. But at this point, I also knew it was too late–I’d spoken with it, after all. As if reading my mind, the doll tilted it’s head–equally unsettling as it had been the first time.
“We can only do it tonight. If we don’t do it, I’m stuck with you, girlie.”
The only thing I needed less than COVID was a haunted doll following me around for the rest of my life. And as someone who was raised a Christian as much as I was taught not to delve into these things, it was already here, on my bed, and I had a chance to help. Perhaps it was the fever, or the fatigue from all the fear I’d already felt, but I decided to play ball.
“And this will be….saving your soul?”
Another creepy, plastic nod, before the smile on the doll seemed to widen again.
“You ready to make some whoopee?”
Before I knew it, I was carrying the doll to my guest room, where two large mirrors on the sliding doors that led to the closet would be seen. Sighing, I placed the doll down next to me, before I sat with my legs criss-crossed and looked into the mirror. I peered questioningly at the doll, as if to ask if this was the right setup, but before the words could escape me, the doll was chanting in Latin. “Corpus pro corpore.”
“Uh, Margie, I don’t feel comfortable with this anym–”
“Mens et animus.”
“—Animam pro anima.”
As the words were spoken, I began to feel the world spin around me. I wasn’t sure if it was the fever or whatever the doll was doing, but my vision began to blur at the edge, and eventually, it went black.
When I woke, I felt carpet on my skin—but something was not right. It wasn’t—there was NO skin. I tried to push myself up, but my limbs wouldn’t seem to work–and only after getting myself in a seated position did I realize how low to the ground I was. How large everything around me was. And it wasn’t until I looked into the mirror–and noticed that I was in a doll’s body and that my human body was cackling wickedly at my own reflection–that I realized what had happened. The hair on the doll was no longer blonde, but my mousy brown, and the eyes were no longer blue–they were a muddy hazel, framed in plastic sockets, to my horror. My now-plastic head swung around. “YOU.” I raged in whatever voice came from this body, the energy in the room dropping once again, “You tricked me!”
“Ahahaha–like I said, you’re a cad, darling! So foolish, a real Dumb Dora. This body is *mine* now. And the Influenza may have taken me before, but I’m back now, and–”
Cough. Cough cough cough. I watched as my human body began to double over, coughing violently–much more violently than I had been at the beginning of the day. And as Margie began to cough in my body, clawing at her chest, panic seeping into her eyes–I began to laugh. It was an unholy laugh, a giggle from a wad of plastic–but my laughter rang out through the room, haunting her. “What–” she gagged, wheezing for the words, “What did you do to me?!”
And yet my laughter would not cease. This was rich, too rich. She’d died of the Spanish Influenza, only to inhabit a body riddled with COVID-19. It was almost too good to be true. It seemed that the laughter would never stop, but when I finally got a hold of myself, my plastic head creaked around slowly–too slowly–and my smile became wide–too wide, as I stared down the imposter in my vessel.
“Welcome to 2020.”
They say that the most authentic way to find something truly disturbing is to do a YouTube deep dive. But beware of what you’ll find on there. For Halloween 2021, you definitely don’t want to look into haunted dolls, and you certainly won’t want to click on the low-fi video that looks like a child’s attempt at a film. Because in that video, you will find a doll with brown hair and hazel eyes, held up by a hand in a basement, with only one viewer–that being you. And in that video, you will hear the doll introduce itself. Before it has a chance to speak to you, turn the video off. Because if you don’t, you’ll hear it introduce itself.
“Hello, I’m Trina.”
And by that point, you’re already doomed.
Credit : TenaciousTee
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